Charlottesville Breaking News

Serial peeper: Man who inspired 3x law arrested again

The name of James Gilbert Stearn may not be widely known, but his Charlottesville activities are the reason for a Virginia law that raised the penalty for a third Peeping Tom offense from misdemeanor to felony.

Stearn's lengthy history of peeping arrests and indecent exposure charges date back at least to 1998, when he was arrested for lurking in the woods behind a UVA dorm and videotaping coeds as they undressed, according to a 2002 Washington Times article on the legislation to stiffen the penalties for serial peepers.

Sources familiar with the case say he fell out of a tree while videotaping.

As a misdemeanor, a peeping conviction carries a maximum sentence of 12 months. A bill carried by Delegate Rob Bell in 2006 made the third strike a felony with a five-year maximum.

Stearn, 49, has already served two-and-a-half years in prison under the new law, and on July 26, he was arrested again at his Leonard Street residence in the Belmont neighborhood. The arrest stems from a July 7 incident in which he was allegedly peering into an occupied building.

"Officers responded to John Street to a report of a prowler," says Charlottesville Police Lieutenant Ronnie Roberts.

The area around the university appears to be a favorite of Stearn, who was arrested on University Way in...

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Slowing postal: Free Union and the place we won't let go

The United States Postal Service– who needs it? Our whole society has gone electronic. With the availability of email, iPads, and smart phones, you need paper mail delivery about as much as you need a hi-fi for your vinyl records.

Well, now. If the above statements characterize your opinion, consider this scenario: The USPS has plans to close your post office. Not somebody else’s post office, but your very own. The one that’s so convenient, where you buy your stamps, mail wedding invitations, and send care packages to your college students– where you stop to chat with your neighbors and check out the bulletin board to see what’s for sale and whose dog is lost. And maybe you have an eBay business so you rent a post office box where customers can safely send you their checks.

Yes, you know that the USPS is said to be hemorrhaging money, but surely they can take aim at the many layers of their bloated bureaucracy and start the hunt for wasted money at the top. At the very least, they should pick on someone else’s post office, not yours.

If you happen to live in Free Union, this threat is not just theoretical. During the last week of June, our postmaster received written notice that the Free Union Post Office was being considered for DUO (“Delivery Unit Optimization”– fedspeak for “downsizing”).

Within a week, that consideration firmed up to “definite” status, and preparations b...

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FLAWS- Tripled rates, spun numbers, and Conservancy conflicts: Why the war on dredging slogs on

Just when you thought it was safe to save the reservoir, the war against dredging it has reached flood stage. Waterworks director Tom Frederick– perhaps rattled by a yank of his permit to build a new reservoir, and a growing desire, amid upcoming City Council elections, to muster political support– has been spinning the latest data.

What can't be spun is that rates have essentially tripled since 1999. And yet a small cadre of environmentalists– most enmeshed in government, each with links to the other, and one actually leading a Frederick-friendly news agency– persists in pushing reservoir replacement even though it would benefit a bottled-water company at the expense of local households, destroy 180 acres of mature hardwood forest, and require an electricity-dependent pipeline moving more water than all but two local rivers.

How did such a crucial community decision fall into the hands of special interests? The old saying "Follow the money" is apt, because if there's one thing the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has, it's money. Money for consultants. Money for activists. Money to spend designing things that don't get built.

What the Authority also has is debt, $54 million today. And it's embarking on a five-year, $173-million capital improvement plan that doesn't even account for the pipeline, the most expensive piece of the plan.

Money to burn

The controversy began about four years ago when...

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Wrong last name of artist

The last name of the artist whose work was the subject of the July 28 art review, "Disposable beauty: Wood thinks outside the bag," was misspelled in the print version of the story. The artist is K. Wood, not K. Woods.

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Hacked Neff: Scammer steals Supe candidate's accounts

Former IBM exec Cynthia Neff has used computers since the 1980s and understands the importance of secure passwords. That's why it was particularly galling to discover a hacker had taken over her Gmail account and was trying to fleece her contacts with the old "London mugging" scam.

Worse, the scammer locked her out of her email, Facebook, and even a secondary Yahoo account.

"It's horrible," said Neff July 20, still able to communicate with old-fashioned telephone. She's running for the Rivanna District seat on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and had based her campaign distribution list on her email contacts.

Neff's hundreds of contacts, including the Hook, received an email marked "urgent" that spun a fictitious tale of her being in London and her bag had been stolen along with passport and money. Could the recipient wire her some quick cash, which she'd repay when she got home, so she could get on the next available flight?

Although the scam is not new, Neff worried that some would fall for it. "Older people and relatives called to ask, 'Do you need money?'" she recounts. "A neighbor came by, worried about me, and said he'd called the British Embassy."

The nice thing, she says, was that she got 75 phone calls from people checking to see if she was okay. Not so nice: getting locked out of her accounts...

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